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Way Out

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      It was quiet, but Jason heard it. Jason heard the soft whimpers and sobs coming from the other side of the wall. Soon enough, though, he couldn't take it anymore. He ripped his covers of and walked hurriedly out of his room and into the next. Nico's room. He pressed open the room and peered into the dark. It was just black, and his eyes hadn't adjusted yet. Jason heard a shuffle of covers, and his eyes began to see shapes. Nico's few items of furniture became visible, and on the bed there was a lump under the dark grey covers.

      "Nico?" Jason whispered. More cover-shuffling. "Are you alright?" Jason thought he heard a sniffle.

      "What? Yeah, I'm fine, Grace," Nico muttered from under the blanket, his voice sounding blocked. "Just.. Go away." Jason didn't go; he stepped further in to Nico's dark room. A step, another step, and another until he was two feet away from Nico's bed.

      "You're sure?" Jason's voice was quieter than he ever thought he could make it. "Because I heard... You, I think, from my room." Neither said anything for a moment.

      "Yeah, I'm okay. It probably wasn't even me." Jason knew it was a lie. A lie to get Jason away, to be alone again.

      "Nico.. I want to help. Just let me help," Jason murmured, kneeling beside Nico's bed. The son of Hades' head poked out from under the covers hesitantly. Even in the dark, Jason could see the circles under his eyes that indicated lack of sleep, and the wetness on his cheeks. Jason was taken aback. He had heard it, but wasn't sure if he would have been able to see it.

      "But, Jason, can't you see?" Nico whispered, his voice at a near-breaking point.

      "See what?" Jason felt his eyes sting. He didn't know if he's be able to look at Nico like that much longer. He looked pitiful, broken, and vulnerable, and Jason didn't think there was anything he could do.

      "You can't help. Nobody can help me now," Nico whimpered. He looked into Jason's bright blue eyes. "Not even you." Jason felt a lump in his throat.

      "Well, you should let me try," Jason said, his voice almost cracking. Nico's eyes sparkled with new tears that hadn't fallen. Jason asked a silent question. Can I? Nico blinked and nodded a ghost of a nod, the tears falling from his eyes. Jason slid under the covers as Nico shifted over to make room. Jason felt the warm, damp stain of tears on the pillow. He hesitantly put his hand around Nico's back and pulled him closer. Nico went rigid. He stiffed as his eyes shot open wide and his long, bony finger clenched around Jason's forearm. "Shh. It's okay." Jason became more gentle, if at all possible.

      "I-I don't like being -" Nico started, shock evident in his voice.

      "I know, I know, but this will make you feel better. I promise," Jason whispered. Nico released some tension as Jason held him against his chest comfortably. Nico's head tucked perfectly under Jason's chin, and with his cheek against Jason's chest, he could hear the steady beat of Jason's heart. A small whimper rose up in Nico's throat, never leaving his mouth.

      "Jason, I.. I feel like absolute shit. All - " Nico stopped to take a breath, trying not to let the tears overflow again. "All the time," He managed to say. His voice broke.

      "It's okay if you need to cry," Jason murmured into Nico's dark hair, pressing their bodies together.

      He did. Nico cried into Jason's grey t-shirt, quiet sobs escaping his pale pink lips. Jason kept his arms protectively around the boy, tears of his own slipping off of his cheeks. Nico's grip tightened on the back of Jason's t-shirt, and his head pressed harder into Jason's chest. He cried for a long time, longer than Jason could count. Jason stroked his hair softly, murmuring comforting words as Nico calmed down. Soon enough, Nico had quieted down and was limply hanging onto Jason as if he had to. Maybe he did. Nevertheless, Jason didn't do anything Nico didn't ask him to; he didn't go, didn't let go of him, didn't move away. And Nico didn't ask him to. He probably wouldn't admit it, but Nico liked being held; it helped him think that he had a way out. Maybe he did. With Jason.